“ 200 Acre park located near Holyhead „
The Isle of Anglesey, situated at the north western tip of Wales, has some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the UK. Its ancient, Precambrian rocks have been battered by the sea for millennia, forming rocky headlands, sandy beaches, and intimate little coves. Much of Anglesey's coast is accessible to the tourist.
One of the easiest parts of Anglesey's coast to access is Penrhos Coastal Park. Forming part of the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the park is signposted from Junction 2 of the A55. This is a superb resource for locals and tourists alike. Set in 200 acres, the park has a variety of facilities and habitats together with stunning views across an expanse of the Irish Sea.
The park is very visitor friendly. Entrance is free, as is parking in the huge car park. The large picnic area adjacent to the car park has plenty of tables, overlooking the shallow, fertile waters of Beddmanarch Bay. There are toilets and disabled toilets right next to the car park, too. Many of the park's paths are tarmac and suitable for wheelchairs.
Several small ponds are situated close by. These are havens for wild waterfowl such as mallard, coot and moorhen, but are also a home for many ornamental species of duck. Any spare sandwiches will be gratefully received by these colourful, ever-hungry birds!
Many people will be content to stay at the beach near to the car park. The beach is clean sand, which is uncovered for much of the day. The sheltered waters of the bay rarely face the full force of any inclement weather, and the sea is often calm, with a deep cobalt blue colour which lights up in the light of even a winter sun.
The bay is a haven for wildlife, although it is often hard to spot. Staying here for several hours will give the viewer an insight into the restless nature of the tides, and a glimpse of how the wild creatures cope with the sea's ever changing moods.
At low tide, the sea will be far out, with the sand dry and desolate looking. Look carefully, however, and secretive little ringed plovers can be spotted, their sandy plumage a perfect camouflage against the sand. More obvious will be the oystercatchers. These handsome black and white waders constantly clamour for attention with their piping calls, and frequent display flights.
As the tide starts to fill the bay, the sand is gradually covered, and distant birds, seen as dots only a few minutes ago, gradually become identifiable as the tide brings them closer. In summer, terns fish in the bay. These elegant 'swallows of the sea' entertain visitors with their delicate flight and constant plunging for fish just offshore. Lucky visitors may spot a grey seal or even a porpoise, both species are relatively common around Anglesey.
Winter sees even more avian action on an incoming tide as brent geese, red-breasted mergansers, eider ducks, goldeneye, and the rare Slavonian grebe will all be present, drawn in with the rushing waters. At high tide, the beach is completely covered, and the ebbing and flowing waters make a hissing sound as they drag at the sand: any sandcastles being swiftly washed away. Of course, after high tide, the process is reversed, and the beach is uncovered ready for the kids to play on, once more.
Active visitors will want to explore, however, and there is much to see here. The park contains several different habitats, including woodland and grassland. The path from the car park leads directly into the wooded areas, some of which were planted in 1816. This is a diverse woodland, with many species of tree, harbouring plenty of wildlife and sheltering many species of flowers.
Anglesey has few woods and this is one of the best to visit if you want to see one of the greatest floral spectacles Britain has to offer. In spring, the floor of the wood is carpeted with wild blooms: yellow primrose and lesser celandine contrast with the white wild garlic, but all are put to shade by the spectacular bluebell. Thousands of delicate bell shaped petals put on a beautiful display, enhanced by the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees' new foliage: a show that is both wonderful and free to view.
The woods are full of birds, and chaffinches, robins, and long-tailed tits will be moving and singing all around. The drumming of the great spotted woodpecker can be heard here, too.
As the woodland is left behind, traditional hay meadows are encountered. These flower rich fields are full of life and vibrant with colour, unlike the sterile, monochrome, cultivated fields that are so common today. As well as common flowers such as mallow and birds-foot trefoil, the pink blooms of thrift, a seaside plant, nestle amongst the green grasses, a delicate, surprising sight away from its traditional sandy setting.
The highest point of the park is now reached, at the headland of Gorsedd-y-Penrhyn. This boulder clay outcrop has far reaching views, both inland and out to sea, and still shows evidence of its formation, carved by glaciers 20,000 years ago. There are benches here, and this is one of the best spots to have a rest or a bite to eat.
At the other side of the headland is a large, secluded cove. Hidden from view from the rest of the park, this is often deserted, even on a busy day, as it is quite a trek from the park entrance. Here, the rocks of the headland meet the beach, forming rock pools that are irresistible to adults and children alike. Sea anemones, hermit crabs (watch out for the claws!), and even fishes such as gobies, can all be found by carefully moving rocks in the larger pools. Each one holds an abundance of hardy species, all waiting for the incoming tide to release them from their temporary, watery prison.
Once the cove has been thoroughly explored, and all the rock pool residents released, all that remains is to retrace one's steps back to the car park. Penrhos is so large that a whole morning or afternoon can easily be taken up in exploring its many attractions, with the time passing quickly with so much to see and do.
If you are considering a trip to Anglesey, whether in summer or winter, Penrhos Coastal Park is worth visiting, especially if you are, like me, a lover of beautiful scenery and wildlife. That the park is completely free simply adds to the allure of this lovely place.